By Dan Savage
I’m a thirty-something gay man married to a thirty-something gay man. For almost two years, we’ve been seeing another pair of married gay men around our age. They were our first experience with any sexual or romantic interaction outside of our relationship. The first six months were hot and heavy. We were together constantly and having sex almost every night. After the “honeymoon phase” ended, one member of the other couple (“Roger”) wanted to slow things down. Roger and I had some conflict over this, and I have to admit that I showed a pretty bad side of myself while grappling with insecurity. Eventually, Roger pulled me aside to talk one-on-one. He wanted us to be “friends who have sex sometimes.”
Then, right after the COVID-19 lockdown started, Roger and I had another heart-to-heart on my birthday. After many drinks and a lot of making out we both said we loved each other. Roger walked it back the next day. “I don’t know what you thought you heard last night,” he basically said, “but I’m not in love with you.” I was devastated. This isn’t what I want. I am in love with Roger and his husband. I don’t want to be “friends who have sex sometimes.” My husband is OK with just being friends with Roger and his husband, especially since their large friend group has adopted us and he worries we’ll lose all these new friends if I end our friendship with Roger and his husband. I would really like to talk this out with Roger, but I’m not sure I can get through that conversation without DTMFAing him.
I mean, which was it? Were we a fun sexy fling and nothing about the last two years mattered? Or was he in love with me but decided the conflict and complication of this relationship wasn’t worth it? Which was it?
Trouble In The Quad
Roger doesn’t want what you want.
That sucks and I’m sorry. But we’ve all been there. Falling for someone who doesn’t feel as strongly for us as we do for them, whether we’re dating as couples or singles, is always painful. But that pain is an unavoidable risk. And while it may seem unfair that you can only have Roger in your life on his terms, that’s the reality. That’s everyone’s reality, TITQ, because loving someone doesn’t obligate that person to love us back or love us in the same way that we love them or want the same things we want. But Roger can’t impose his terms on you. If being “just friends” feels like an insulting consolation prize after what the last two years has meant to you, if that’s not good enough, then Roger doesn’t get to be in your life. You can have terms too.
Backing up for a second: You seem to believe that if the relationship mattered—if Roger and his husband loved you and your husband and vice-versa—then it wouldn’t ended. That’s false. Something can matter and still end. Something can also matter more to one person than it did to another person. (Or couple.) You don’t have to dismiss or minimize what the four of you had because Roger has decided, for whatever reason, that being in a quad with you isn’t what he wants.
And if you’re hoping to get this quad back together… and it’s entirely up to Roger… you’re going about it wrong. If Roger got cold feet due to the “conflict and complication” of being in a poly relationship, TITQ, then your best move is to avoid conflict and complication. If you think Roger told the truth on your birthday and lied to you the next day, then you need to demonstrate the kind of emotional maturity that makes you a more attractive partner to a person like Roger. And provoking a confrontation with Roger—staging a scene where you’re likely to dump up a guy who has already dumped you—will have the opposite effect. It will only confirm for Roger the decision he has already made.
Your best bet—your best strategy—is to accept Roger’s offer of friendship and refrain from blowing up at him. You should also tell him, just once and very calmly, that you and your husband would be open to getting back together with him and his husband. Best case scenario, the quad gets back together. Worst case scenario, you have some great memories, a whole bunch of great new friends, and maybe once in a while a hot foursome with Roger and his husband.
Two last things…
I would love to see video of you showing the “bad side” of yourself to Roger. Given the way people tend to minimize their own shitty behavior—all people do it, myself included—I’m guessing it was/you were ugly. If you’re prone to blowing up when you don’t get what you want, well, it’s understandable that someone who dislikes conflict and complication would start getting cold feet once the honeymoon phase ended. I’m not suggesting you’re toxic or unbearable‚ TITQ, only that different people have different tolerance levels for romantic conflict. But if what you want is for Roger to reconsider the decision he’s made, well, you might also wanna let him know you’re working on your approach to conflict. If you don’t want Roger to regret getting the quad back together and then quickly end things again, TITQ, or for the next Roger or Rogers who come into your life to head for the hills after their honeymoon phases end, you’ll talk with someone who can give you the tools to better handle conflict.
And finally, TITQ, the other two men in this quad feel strangely inert—more like houseplants than husbands. I mean, you have nothing to say about how Roger’s husband feels and very little to say about how yours does. Is Roger’s husband interested in keeping the quad together? Besides not wanting to lose some new friends, does your husband give two shits? Because even if Roger decides he wants back in, TITQ, and that’s a big if, your revived quad won’t last for long for if your houseplants—sorry: your husbands—aren’t just as invested as you are.
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